Planet Bollywood
Bobby
 
Producer: Raj Kapoor
Director: Raj Kapoor
Starring: Dimple Kapadia, Rishi Kapoor, Pran, Sonia Sahni, Durga Khote, Aruna Irani, Premnath
Music: Laxmikant-Pyarelal
Lyrics: Anand Bakshi, Vitalbhai Patel, Inderjit Singh
Genre: Romantic
Recommended Audience: General
Approximate Running Time: 168 mins
Reviewed by: Shahid Khan  - Rating: 7.5 / 10
 
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After the colossal flop that was the sentimental biopic, “Mera Naam Joker”, director Raj Kapoor decided to turn his hands to something more conventional of Hindi cinema. He capitalized on the promise that his son Rishi Kapoor showed in his debut film role in “Mera Naam Joker” and gave him a full-fledged leading hero role in “Bobby”. In Rishi Kapoor, the director saw a younger version of himself. Therefore, he desired a younger version of Nargis to be cast opposite him. Newcomer, Dimple Kapadia, was found (replacing Neetu Singh who auditioned for the role) and she essayed the classic Raj Kapoor heroine. Looks wise, Dimple is quite similar to Nargis, which might explain the director’s fascination with the starlet at the time.

Bobby” has nothing new to offer in terms of plot. Rich boy, Raj Nath falls in love with poor girl, Bobby Braganza. Rich boy’s father opposes the union and offers her family money to get rid of them. Poor girl’s father is insulted and bans the two lovers from seeing each other ever again. Rich boy and poor girl run away leading to an action-packed climax where everything is resolved.

To use an age-old cliché, it is the treatment that makes the difference. Raj Kapoor focuses on one thing and that is entertainment. Gone were his favorite music composers Shanker-Jaikishen (though Shanker had passed away by then) to be replaced by Laxmikant-Pyarelal. And the numbers are wonderfully melodious fuelled by romantic picturisations. Who can forget Rishi and Dimple being locked in a room and making the most of their time alone together? The way their eyes lock onto each other’s while they dream of fantasies and “what if” opportunities? “Soch Kabhi Aisa Ho To Phir Kya Ho? Hum Tum Ek Kamre Main Band Ho...” Who can forget Rishi in his huge giant-size nerdy glasses whispering to his ladylove, “Mujhe Kuch Kehna Hai!”? Who can forget the way the director captures the tears slowly inching their way out of Dimple’s eyes as she hums, “Ankhiyon Ko Rehne De”? The tunes are great but they have achieved classic status due to memorable lines by all the lyricists involved. Having focused on Europe in the previous RK production, “Sangam”, the focus here falls on Kashmir, which provides a dream-like setting for “Hum Tum…

Dimple plays a poor girl, which is obvious by the tiny clothes she wears. In fact, even Aruna Irani wears less revealing clothes and she is the friendly vamp! Dimple looks fabulous in all her costumes and sets the screen alight in every frame with her blend of teenage innocence and sensuality. Raj Kapoor acknowledges the fact that the teenage years are about the emergence and realization of one’s sexuality. In one scene, Dimple looks at the reflection of herself in the mirror whilst clad in a skin-tight swimsuit and recognizes her own beauty and sexuality. The uncertainty and fragility of the self-esteem in adolescence is also portrayed in the way that Bobby quickly assumes that Raj is using her and intends to marry his friend, played by Aruna Irani. On the face of it, “Bobby” may just be a straightforward love story but it is also about growing out of childhood and into adulthood. As Lata Mangeshkar says in one of the songs in this film: “Yeh ek saal, bachpan aur jawani ke beech main bara bura hota hai, yeh ek saal… (The year between adolescence and adulthood is a very difficult one).”

There is an enormous difference between a film like “Bobby” and the films made in the 1990’s and the subsequent years. In such a conventional romantic saga, Raj Kapoor has created subtle messages regarding relationships. Take the parents of Raj for instance. All the bitterness, coldness and tension in the relationship between the father and the mother comes to the fore in just one cleverly directed scene. While having a typical argument about whose fault it is that Raj has turned out to be a brat, it escalates furiously to the point where the mother, Sushma (Sonia Sahni) accuses her husband, Nath (Pran) of leaving her unloved. This, she says, as she quickly gets up off the chair and her sari slips off the shoulder revealing a certain amount of flesh. Such a gesture reveals a lot about the sexual frigidity apparent in their dead marriage. Compare this to the one-dimensional portrayal of the relationship between mother and father characters in recent films that go by the adage, “pati parmeshwar hote hain (my husband is god)”.

Another difference in today’s love stories is that the lead characters always try to win their parents round if they are against their romantic union. If the parents still disagree, the lovers somehow separate their paths, tearfully trying to fulfil their promises to their parents. This is until someone intervenes at the last minute and makes the parental characters see sense. Of course, there are exceptions, but this scenario is the trend in the genre. The scenario is very much different in “Bobby”. Raj does desire parental approval but if the same parents have no consideration about his happiness then he rebels and sticks two fingers up at tradition. After his bust-up with his wife, Nath then fires up a confrontation with his son. After he has returned from Kashmir, Nath asks his son why he went there in the first place. “Kashmir se phool laaye ho (You’ve brought flowers from Kashmir)” He states in a sarcastic tone. “Wahan mausam bahut khoobsoorat aur bahar (There the Spring is lovely)” Raj tells excitedly. “Magar yahan aag lagi hai!! (But there is fire here!)” Nath fumes.

 Farida Jalal makes a delightful and show-stopping cameo as Alka Sharma, a strange girl whom Raj is forced to be acquainted with by his parents. You would not be surprised at Raj’s reluctance to marry her as Alka acts like one big baby. Did you know that she has a whole room stuffed full of dolls? And her dress sense! Granted that she wears more than what Bobby does but you have got to wonder where on earth that blue dress came from. And worse, she pulls a puppy dog look and implores Raj to promise that he will never leave her. You just know that she is a potential stalker and you can hear the theme tune of “Psycho” ringing in the air. Aruna Irani and Durga Khote are very fine in their supporting roles and show what seasoned actresses they are. Everyone in the supporting cast sparkles apart from Premnath who overacts as Bobby’s father.

What about the lead hero/heroine? Well, they have great on-screen chemistry that makes their romance look so real (despite a melodramatic look and feel to the film). It is remarkable the way their naivety and doe-eyed awkwardness is so perfectly seized on film. In a film like “Bobby”, it is the chemistry between the lead pair that matters and any lapses in acting can be forgiven. Rishi Kapoor convinces as a passionate lover and he turns in a performance that, I dare say, is more committed than the performances that he gave in films not directed by his father. Dimple Kapadia is every inch the perfect Raj Kapoor heroine… Every time you look at her, you look at her through the director’s vision and think, “wow”.

It may seem quite dated today but “Bobby” is an important film in that it has inspired so many other popular Hindi filmi love stories motivated by its message of teenage rebellion. But, as they say, the first one is always the best.

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